World Beauties

Did you know that the bearded vulture feeds mainly on corpse bones?

Animals that collaborate in cleaning the Earth

The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is a very different vulture to similar birds of prey. It is a threatened species in large areas of its distribution, and on the European continent it is an animal in serious danger of extinction that has disappeared from several regions where it was previously abundant.

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What is its singular name due to? It gets its name from the habit of lifting bones and shells to great heights and then releasing them and once they crash against rocks they can eat their interior marrow and not only that, but the bone itself.

The average wingspan of this species is 2.5 m, although some specimens can reach 2.8 m. Its weight can vary between 4.5 and 7 kg. Characteristics of this species are the long and narrow wings, the long diamond-shaped tail and the fact that its head is covered with feathers, unlike the rest of the vultures. This is becausee the bearded vulture does not insert the head and neck into the bodies of dead animalsbut it is an osteophagous species (in fact, it is the only bird that feeds almost exclusively on bones): when carnivorous mammals, crows and other species of vultures have made the soft parts disappear, the bearded vultures come to feed on the bones .

When these are too big to swallow, it grabs them with its legs and drops them on rocky areas to break them into smaller fragments that it can ingest. This practice is not to eat the marrow, as many people believe, the bearded vulture ingests the whole bone, being able to swallow pieces of up to 20 cm in length. It is estimated that 75% of their diet is made up of what they get from the bones of domestic and wild ungulates. The rest is made up of skins and remains of meat, and the occasional dead turtle, after falling off its shell. It feeds on bones and other remains of dead animals.

How do they reproduce? Bearded vulture pairs form at the beginning of maturity and are maintained for the rest of their lives. They are sedentary and reproduce every year in a single nest that they build at the entrance of a cave or on a ledge protected from the wind. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs for two months and then continue to take care of the chicks together, but they do not prevent the stronger chick from killing the weaker one, as also happens in eagles. After 4 months in the nest, the surviving chick matures enough to take its first flight, but continues to be fed by its parents, which it now accompanies and learns from them to feed itself. This apprenticeship period lasts between 95 and 247 days, after which it becomes independent.

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